Testing The Waters (Part 2)

Day 10:

Next morning it was a chilly 37 degrees! Sunny, with a high of 59, and it was supposed to be in the low to mid 60s the following day. We left the dock around 9am and headed out of the harbor. Out in the river we were motoring at 11 knots! There was a 6 knot current right outside the marina, but once the river widened it settled down to 1.5 to 2 knots for most of the day. We made good progress; saw a lot of commercial shipping, and the day turned out quite nice and sunny.

We made good time; with the current we were able to make around 9-10 knots all day. We decided to push through to Portnouef which is just about 30 miles from Quebec. The captain from the other boat came over to our vessel around sunset, and we motored toward the destination he described. I found it on the charts and we set out to get there. Suddenly the whole navigation system went out. We spent about a half hour trying to fix it to no avail. It turned out the problem was due to our lady crew making a wholesome dinner down below for us, the electric skillet and microwave were sucking juice faster than the generator could handle it and our main batteries were down to 11.3 volts when they should have read about 13.

Once we figured that out, the instruments corrected themselves and started behaving again. We arrived at the marina around 10pm and the entrance was not properly lit. Note to self; DON’T enter a strange harbor in the dark, especially when the aids to navigation are off. We motored up very slowly trying to find the entrance. I was at the helm, and according to the charts we were passing by the entrance, so I turned the boat around and almost immediately we landed gently aground on a sandy bottom. We motored off, and started to head towards the entrance as shown by the charts. I went forward with a powerful flashlight to see if I could make out the entrance more clearly. Then I saw lights moving on shore. Two people had seen us trying to come in and they came to the entrance and guided us in.

Once tied up we talked the other boat in on the radio and tied up for the night. After a shot of whisky to calm the rattled nerves of everyone, we went to bed.

Day 11:

Next morning we woke up and it was 30 degrees. Fog rolled in, not super thick, but enough that we needed to use the radar when we ventured out. We got a slow start, so by the time we left the fog had lifted enough that we could see the river. Off we went, motor sailing at between 10 and 11 knots. The trip was uneventful. We arrived in Quebec city in the early afternoon. We had to pass through a lock to get into the marina; the tides are 16-20 feet here, and they want to keep the marina water depth consistent. We schmoozed with our dock neighbor who had a 100ft long powerboat, and then went to dinner in a small neighborhood eatery in the old town. After a delicious meal we wandered back to the boat for a little chat before turning in for the night. Tomorrow the crew will go on tours while I work:) The weather was beautiful; sunshine and 60s – hopefully a good harbinger.

Day 12:

I spent the day working while everyone else went shopping and touring around. The weather turned out beautiful; sunny and warm enough that I put on shorts and a T-shirt. When everyone returned, we went out to dinner at a french cafe called Echaude – enjoyed a great meal, but it was SERIOUSLY EXPENSIVE! Roughly $80 per person and I didn’t even pay for my wine – someone else did! I could never afford to live here. After dinner we went up to the Frontenac hotel – the castle that dominates the Quebec skyline. We poked around in all the downstairs rooms, libraries etc – very European and extravagantly done. Then we had a drink there and returned home to bed.

Day 13:

Next morning we got up early and prepped for departure. Once we locked out of the harbor and got under way, we discovered that the head was leaking. We did a repair on it the previous day, and found an orange piece of what appeared to be plastic or carrot in the joker valve. When re-assembling I think we forgot to properly tighten all the hose clamps. Oh well. Someone once said that cruising was “repairing your boat in exotic locations” – I hope that does not hold true for us when we take our trip.

About half way to Tadoussac, a layer of clouds rolled in, and it started drizzling. Then the fog rolled in. No biggie, with a full canvas enclosure we were all quite cozy. Then it started to get dark, so I took the helm. At 7 pm a strong cold front pushed through and within 20 minutes our wind went from 10 knots out of the west to 30 out of the North West. The fog was gone, but the wind was whipping up a nasty chop because it was blowing against the prevailing current.

The water was quite deep, so I turned and headed toward the windward shore about 2 miles away to try and reduce the fetch. The tide which was against us most of the day, holding our speed to 5-6 instead of 10-12 had turned in our favor and we were scooting along at 8-9 knots. The wind brought furious rain, it pelted us relentlessly to the point where I could not see out of the windshield. About 200 yards from shore we were in 250 ft of water, and a small town was off our port beam. Running along parallel to the shore, it felt like the traffic on the highway was coming right at us, a very spooky feeling.

The wind intensified dramatically, and soon we were in a full gale with winds sustained over 50 knots. The waves weren’t much of an issue due to the short fetch, but the winds were howling and were were afraid that it would tear the enclosure to shreds! Snaps popped off, and the canvas was flogging around threatening to beat us all to pulp. I was at the helm, trying to steer a course parallel to the shore, and one of the crew was hunched over the chart plotter telling me what I was seeing. The wind was a thunderous roar at 50 knots; I will say it shrieks at 60 – we took a vote and everyone was comfortable with heading on toward Tadoussac; our other alternative was to run with bare poles but with only 10 miles to the lee shore we would be out of room in an hour with nowhere to go. The chop close to shore was about 3 ft, very manageable, and once we had improvised a “net” of lines to hold the windward side of the canvas in place, the canvas issue became somewhat resolved and we could concentrate on finding our port.

Being in the dark in a strange place is very unnerving, we headed out under bare poles while we were getting the canvas squared away, and then headed back to the windward shore against some very stiff opposition from both wind and waves. We took a wave when the wind was over 60 knots and the jolt knocked 2 of the crew into the nav pod, and the instruments went out! We worked on getting them repaired while the rest of us steered and navigated in the inky darkness. One of the crew had her tablet with charts on it, so that became the backup and she guided me while I drove and tried to pick my way along the shore. The tide turned and our speed went from 9 to 3 – yes – 3! We had a reef to skirt which forced us out further from shore, and the results were not good, for about a half hour we were taking 7 footers on the port quarter and they managed to find their way into every nook and cranny – we were all soaked.

Half the crew, from having their heads down working on the nav equipment, got seasick. Once the sick were attended to, I drove, calling out landmarks, and the other healthy crew member found them on the chart and relayed me direction and distance information. During the whole thing, which lasted close to 4 hours, I kept repeating Psalm 23, and I talked to God, imploring Him to calm the waves and the wind so we could enter port safely. We had one last reef to get around before motoring up the channel to Tadoussac harbor. The Lord answered my prayers! As we motored in, we found the center channel mark, rounded the reef and saw the runway of red and green lights, and God calmed the seas, the wind backed off until it was in the 15-20 knot range, and by the time we got into the harbor, winds were under 10.

The tide was in so we had plenty of room to maneuver, and after a few tries fighting the wind and the current we tied up and were on the dock. Shore power! Change clothes! We all hugged each other and then proceeded to pour a 6oz shot of whisky for each of us and we unwound, talking about the night’s adventure. I looked out of the window of the boat and there, framed by the window was a white, lit cross on top of a church steeple. Tears came to my eyes, it was God showing us that he was watching and taking care of us. We made hot chocolate that we added a double shot of vodka to, and that really warmed the belly. We had left Quebec around 9am, and arrived at 1:30 am the next morning in Tadoussac. It was time for bed and I slept like a LOG!!

Day 14:

The sun was shining the next morning and we got underway. We were able to get all the nav instruments working again and so we set out against a rip current of 4 knots out the harbor with main and jib flying. It was a beautiful crisp morning. We had to dodge all the whale watching boats as we left; the dockmaster told us she had seen a Minke whale swimming around in the harbor when she got to work, but we did not see any. We left picturesque Tadoussac behind and headed North East to the Gaspe peninsula. The wind gradually backed to the South, and then died. So on a calm sea we were gently rolling along at 7 knots about 15 miles from the Eastern shore. Temps were in the 50s, but with no wind it felt like the 60s. Yesterday’s adventure was long forgotten…

We had our first injury of the trip. I was going up the companionway steps, and someone had closed the hatch. I banged my head on the lock and took off a nice flap of skin. It bled like crazy, but with 2 doctors and a nurse on crew, the wound was quickly dressed and taken care of. Then they put on a band aid and took a picture of me because I looked so silly. Guess I will be wearing a hat for the rest of the trip – lol. I didn’t feel too bad about it though,because one of the other crew did the exact same thing about a half hour later. We had a good laugh over it. The sun set and we agreed on a watch schedule. One watched until 10, one watched from 8-12, one watched from 10-4 and I watched from midnight to sunrise. It was an uneventful night, calm winds with a gentle breeze pushed us along at 7-8 knots.

Day 15:

We decided to push straight through to PEI since we lost so much time fighting the current and there were relatives that had invited us to visit. With the schedule we were on, we would be there by some time Sunday. Forecast was for favorable winds so we were all happy about that. When we had left Tadoussac, it was 47. I will say the night watch was cold! I wore socks and shoes, 2 pair of sweatpants, foul weather pants, a T-shirt, cashmere sweater, my new cold weather jacket, foul weather jacket and gloves. I was chilled to the bone by the time the sun came up, despite 2 cups of coffee to warm the innards. It was a beautiful sunny day, the cockpit was warm and so all was good. Fall up here is really beautiful. We stayed about 3 miles offshore and hugged the 600ft line. I was quite surprised at how many lights we saw – the entire coastline was populated; somewhat sparse in some areas, but that was not expected. When the sun came up, we realized why they were all at the coast; the land rose VERY steeply, and a half mile inland it could be 300 to 400 ft above sea level! Windmills dotted the tops of the hills, and surprisingly enough the cell reception was excellent. We stopped counting windmills at 150.

Our original plan was to gas up at Riviere Au Renaud, a small fishing port about 20 miles from the tip of the Gaspe peninsula. We pulled in and to our surprise, our travelling companion Island Dancer was tied up at the dock. They had continued on after the storm abated and sailed through the night when we pulled into Tadoussac. They did not motor, only sailed, and since the winds were so light, we had managed to catch up to them. We decided to spend the night, and tied up to a fishing wharf, rafting off of them. We made a yummy dinner; the local fish house was a 2 minute walk, and we bought a huge bag of mussels caught that day, cooked them up and ate them. Delicious dinner! Then we sat around recounting our stories of the storm adventure. The time came to plan our departure, and when we looked at the updated forecast it was for 30 knots out of the South. We all decided pounding into waves for 120 miles would be no fun, so Sunday was to be a lay day. We would leave early Monday for the shot over to Charlottetown, PEI.

Day 16:

We woke up the next morning and the sun was out, winds were light and we went to breakfast at a quaint little bistro that was a 2 minute walk from the boat. The meal was delicious and cheap! We had a great breakfast, and when we left an hour or so later, it was cloudy and the wind was howling! We had made the right choice. The wind was about 30 out of the South and was making strange moaning sounds through the rigging and tackle of the fishing boats. We were all glad we were snug in port! Ivan, the marina owner bought jerry cans of diesel to our boat, as the docks had been removed for the year. What a helpful guy. We invited him over for dinner that evening. He opened up the marina so we could take a hot shower that evening – that went over VERY well! We went to the fish store and bought mussels, smoked salmon and halibut. Two of us walked to the grocery store and bought the rest of what was needed to prepare dinner. We cooked up a wonderful meal and after some socializing we turned in for an early morning departure.

Day 17:

We left at 5am on the high tide (about 8ft) and headed out of the harbor. Our 2 boats, plus a 125 ft powerboat and a Volvo 60 headed out and turned for PEI. The skies were clear and the wind was light. There was a gentle rolling swell from the South, but not much in the way of wind. We would get a pocket of wind, then nothing. We made good progress around the Gaspe which has 200ft high cliffs. They were illuminated by the sun as it came up and it made for a spectacular vista. We had coffee, made breakfast and then I settled down to work.

As we passed by Perce, we saw a seal floating in the water watching us. We all grabbed for our cameras, but he was gone before we could get a snap. The cliffs of the gannet colony were mostly empty as baby rearing time had long passed. We saw a few flocks flying low over the water, and even saw one close up. It was in our path and swam out of the way as we passed by. A weak cold front was supposed to come through in the early afternoon and was supposed to give us 15 knot winds from a favorable direction to help speed us to PEI.

The cold front came through with little fanfare, but it made the seas very confused, and we were soon in a 25 – 30 knot wind off the starboard quarter. 2 of the crew got seasick in the confused sea and I had a crisis at work that I needed to get addressed! The ladies graciously took over watch for me while I furiously tried to develop a solution for the issue at work. Once finished – WHEW – I went up and the 3 of us navigated the boat through the night.

Around 4am, one went to bed, and right after that we started making our approach to the Northumberland strait – a narrow pass between PEI and the mainland. That whipped up a tidal bore which caused the boat to act as though it was surfing at 12 knots, but we were only moving 4.5 to 5, surfing 5-6 ft waves! Strong current! On the charts we found shallower water and made our way over to the inner shore. Once there and the water depth dropped below 30ft, things calmed down dramatically, and we no longer looked like someone that needed to be pulled over for a DUI. End of watch came and I went to bed.

Day 18:

I woke at 9 and started work – we were passing under the huge bridge that connects PEI with the mainland. Clearance was almost 200 ft in the center, and the bridge crosses a span of almost 9 miles! The seas were calm, and we picked our way through crab traps that were being diligently attended to by their owners. The water was dotted with brightly colored buoys – the color code I guess indicating ownership. Glad we did not come through here at night! We turned up the channel and headed into the harbor at Charlottetown. It was a very cute place, very New Englandey.

Our first task ashore was to demolish a bucket of mussels along with a bottle of wine – we passed that exam with flying colors! Then we went for a walk around town, and in the evening the relatives came to meet us. We went out to an Irish bar for a great dinner and saw pictures and heard about the lobster fishing business; that’s what he did for 25 years. We walked back to the marina and there was a near gale blowing the boat onto the dock and it was in danger of being damaged. We struggled against the howling wind to secure and stabilize the boat to protect it from the elements and eventually succeeded. One thing we learned is that the weather changed very quickly in this area, and when we take our trip, we will need to be very vigilant in watching for suitable windows of favorable weather when making some of the longer passages.

Day 19:

The forecast for the next week or so changed for the worse, and so it was decided that the boat would haul out at PEI and over winter there. The boat owners bought me a plane ticket home. One of the crew decided to drive home, so we picked up a rental car and I booked 2 rooms in a hotel for us right next to the airport. We went out for our last evening on the island and celebrated the journey by ordering a lobster dinner with all the trimmings. I took my computer on the plane and all the rest of the stuff came home by car, so the trip home was quick and uneventful.

I do know that I NEVER want to be away from my wife EVER again for that long a period of time. Communication was difficult for me because my phone plan said one thing, and my phone did another – I had no phone service, I guess because my phone was an older model and did not support the GSM network. We have rectified that so our phones will work properly when in Canada, and when in the Bahamas and the BVI, we will have IP phones courtesy of my Wirie (boat network) which uses GSM.

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